Birthday Reviews: Peter H. Cannon’s “Cats, Rats, and Bertie Wooster”

Birthday Reviews: Peter H. Cannon’s “Cats, Rats, and Bertie Wooster”

Cover by Gahan Wilson
Cover by Gahan Wilson

Peter H. Cannon was born on October 19, 1951.

Cannon’s non-fiction book H.P. Lovecraft was nominated for the 1990 Bram Stoker Award. Cannon also works as an editor for Publisher’s Weekly, handling mystery and thriller reviews. Many of Cannon’s stories are strongly based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur Conan Doyle, Frank Belknap Long, and P.G. Wodehouse.

Peter H. Cannon originally published “Scream for Jeeves; Or, Cats, Rats, and Bertie Wooster” as by H.P.G. Wodecraft in the Roodmas 1990 issue of Crypt for Cthulhu, #72, edited by Robert M. Price. The story was reprinted the next month in Dagon #27 and in 1994, Cannon published it as “Cats, Rats, and Bertie Wooster” using his own name, P.H. Cannon, in his collection Scream for Jeeves: A Parody. The story also appeared in 1996 in Cannon’s The Lovecraft Papers and in 1999 in his collection Forever Azathoth and Other Horrors. In 2009, it was translated into French for inclusion in Patrick Marcel’s collection of essays Les nombreuses vies de Cthulhu which included Cannon’s story as well as a story by Kim Newman.

“Cats, Rats, and Bertie Wooster” places P.G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster and his butler, Jeeves, in a Lovecraftian milieu, the Exham Priory in Anchester, Wales, where the character finds himself in the 1923 story “Rats in the Walls.” Invited to the Priory by his friend Captain Edward “Tubby” Norrys, Bertie makes the acquaintance of Pop de la Poer who shares his family history with Bertie, despite Bertie’s clear indifference. The presence of rats in the walls of the priory and the discovery of ancient cellars beneath it lead, as in Lovecraft’s original story, to a later expedition into the depths, an expedition which includes many learned men as well as Bertie because De la Poer and Norrys want Jeeves to participate.

While Wodehouse’s Wooster is an incurious prig, Cannon’s Wooster takes that a step further, not only being self-involved, but actively stupid. Jeeves, on the other hand, is not just a competent butler, but an erudite, well-read, intellectual. Because the story is told from Wooster’s point of view, Cannon can allow his indifference and idiocy obviate the need to provide any real explanation for what is happening. Wooster just isn’t up to the task of related the horror that is found in Lovecraft’s original tale. The result is a parody of Lovecraft that never quite works and a parody of Wodehouse which seems to miss the mark.

Reprint reviewed in the collection Scream for Jeeves: A Parody, by P.H. Cannon, Wodecraft Press, 1994.

Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a sixteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Webinar: Web Sites” in The Tangled Web. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 6 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.

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Rich Horton

So disappointing when I expected a Harl Vincent review! 🙂

Joe H.

I still have my copy of Scream for Jeeves and yes, I’m sorry to say that the stories never quite worked for me either — for one thing, if I remember correctly, there were lengthy passages that were either taken directly from, or modeled very closely on, the original Lovecraft text, which was kind of tonally jarring — I was hoping for more of a Lovecraft story in the voice of Wodehouse, not a Wodehouse story in the voice of Lovecraft.

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